Movie Diary 4/24/2017

Starless Dreams (Mehrdad Oskouei, 2016). A devastating documentary from Iran about teenage girls in a juvenile detention center. This is one of the films to be shown at the Northwest Film Forum in May as part of the nationwide “Seventh Art Stand” project to screen movies largely from countries affected by the president’s travel ban.

Odds Against Tomorrow (Robert Wise, 1959). Re-seeing this one after reading Harry Belafonte’s memoir (he produced it, and considers it one of the only movie projects he got pretty right). Good noir feel, nice work by Robert Ryan and Shelley Winters, plus Belafonte is an unusual presence. The credits are cool. Some of the very spiky dialogue is by Abraham Polonsky, not yet out from under the blacklist. Wise’s hand is heavy at times.

Free Lost Promise (This Week’s Movies)

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Brie Larson, Sharlto Copley: Free Fire (courtesy Kerry Brown/A24)

Links to my reviews published this week in the Herald and Seattle Weekly, and etc.

Free Fire. “Wheatley sees the world as a cesspool where greedy humans get what they deserve and Murphy’s Law prevails. Even with a few undeniably outstanding set pieces, that shtick gets repetitious when delivered with a continual smirk.”

The Lost City of Z. “Director Gray is better known for intimate, self-serious dramas, and working on a bigger scale loosens him up. There are suspenseful scenes and pretentious touches, but the thing does cast a spell.”

The Promise. “The characters are all thinly-sketched stereotypes, but with Isaac and Bale around to provide ballast, at least there’s some decent acting going on.”

Wednesday, April 26, I’ll give a talk for the AIA Seattle’s Urban Design Forum, on the subject of “Seattle in the Movies.” The talk is free and begins at 5:30 at the Center for Architecture and Design, 1010 Western Ave.; more info here.

Movie Diary 4/19/2017

Graduation (Cristian Mungiu, 2016). Ethical dominoes begin to fall when a father pressures his daughter to ace her exams, so that she’ll get out of Romania for college and not get stuck the way he did. A typically dense Romanian film from the director of 4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days, with an almost instant sense of how a system works when it’s broken.

Movie Diary 4/18/2017

The Promise (Terry George, 2016). Draping a Zhivago over the Armenian genocide. The characters played by Oscar Isaac, Christian Bale, and Charlotte Le Bon would not be out of place in a 1940s picture. (full review 4/21)

Superbeast (George Schenck, 1972). About ten minutes’ worth of dialogue and action is spread throughout this 93-minute film, a flaccid Island of Dr. Moreau deal shot in the Philippines. That leaves a lot of dead air in which to insert your own material, which is recommended.

Movie Diary 4/17/2017

A Quiet Passion (Terence Davies, 2016). There’s no way you can make a film about the life of Emily Dickinson, unless, apparently, you are Terence Davies and Cynthia Nixon. An unusual treatment, formal and even stiff at times, but leaving no doubt about the aesthetic urgency that underlies every moment. (full review 5/5)

High-Rise (Ben Wheatley, 2015). Missed this one the first time around, and Wheatley’s got a new movie, Free Fire, out on Friday. Here, the allegorical possibilities of a society contained in high-tech apartment building are just too ripe to resist; but the big problem is how not-very-fun any of this is, while the lessons are hammered to death.

Colossal Gifted Furious (This Week’s Movies)

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Anne Hathaway: Colossal

Links to my reviews published this week in the Herald and Seattle Weekly.

The Fate of the Furious. “Other characters return not only from the past but also from the dead, as is the custom in this series. This thing is like a daytime soap opera with car chases.”

Colossal. “Once Colossal sets its conceptual hook, it pushes its zany premise into authentically uncomfortable territory. It’s actually about something.”

Gifted. “Apparently there’s something about seeing a first-grader stride to a blackboard and solve an Einstein-level math equation that is irresistibly appealing.”

Tonight, April 14, the talkers of Framing Pictures re-convene for another free-flowing conversation about movies. Subjects under discussion include Raw, The Assignment, and an upcoming SIFF mini-series of Douglas Sirk classics. Also fair game: the Netflix original doc Five Came Back, about Hollywood directors who went to World War II. Check the Facebook page for more info. And we’ll see you at Scarecrow, at 7 p.m.; the event is free.

 

Movie Diary 4/13/2017

Free Fire (Ben Wheatley, 2017). A movie devoted to a shoot-out between very confused factions. Lively cast, including Brie Larson, Sharlto Copley, Cillian Murphy, and Armie Hammer. Can’t shake the feeling that Wheatley’s films usually sound better than they play. (full review 4/21)